US, South Korea Talk About Expanding Exercises

Biden meets new president, who has urged closer ties
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2022 4:00 PM CDT
In Seoul, Biden Discusses Threat From the North
A protester blows a vuvuzela during a rally Saturday to oppose a visit by President Biden near the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea. The signs read "Stop the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea."   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

After their presidents met Saturday in Seoul, the US and South Korea announced they might broaden their joint military exercises in the face of North Korea's aggressive nuclear missile program. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the exercises are "key to our combined defense capability" during a press conference with Biden, adding, "We are going to step up our exercises." The joint statement the two nations released contained less of a commitment, USA Today reports, saying the presidents agreed to begin talks "to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula."

The exercises were smaller during President Trump's administration than they had been. North Korea considers them hostile acts, and Biden said he'd agree to a meeting with President Kim Jong Un, provided he was sincere and serious about it, per the Washington Post. The statement said Biden and Yoon agreed that North Korea's nuclear program "presents a grave threat not only to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, but also the rest of Asia and the world." Yoon, who took office less than two weeks ago after promising to be tougher with North Korea, was pleased. "President Biden and I see eye to eye on so many fronts," he said, per the New York Times.

A US president has never visited South Korea so quickly after an election; Yoon said during his campaign he wanted closer ties. "We've gotten a chance to get to know one another personally," Biden said during a state dinner Saturday night, adding, "I think maybe we told each other too much." Biden is on a five-day Asia trip. He was scheduled to fly after the dinner to Japan, where he's to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well asthe leaders of India and Australia. (More diplomacy stories.)

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